Winter Trails Etiquette: Bring On the Snow

Ogilvie Town Forest, February 2021

From the spurt of weather charts taking over the Owl’s facebook feed, it appears winter has decided to appear in the guise of 4-6 inches of snow tomorrow, Friday, January 7. This news may make some folks unhappy around here, which, by the way, I can’t figure out why you would live in New England and not like snow. Hello. One of the Owl’s favorite sayings is “if you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.” So find your joy!

Prediction from Channel 5 Boston’s “Storm Team”

The greatest joy of the snow for the Owl is NOT the part where I have to shovel it off the walk or the fire hydrant (have you adopted your fire hydrant yet? There is still time). It is getting out in the woods–winter trees with their extraordinary structures on full display, the frosting of the snow…and the absolute silence but for an owl or two if you are really really lucky. I can’t wait. As soon as I finish this post, I will head downstairs to prepare the nordic skis, the snowshoes, and the crampons. Joy indeed.

Before that, however, the Owl has to put on her Weston Forest & Trail Stewardship hat, which is pretty easy to fit on over those ear holes and short feathers of mine, and review winter trail etiquette before bad things happen and crankiness and ruffled feathers result.

The number one thing to remember for ANY trail use is that Weston’s 100 miles of trails are SHARED–they belong to walkers, horse riders, dog walkers, mountain bikes, fat tire bikes, snowshoers, XC skiers, and occasionally some intrepid tank-tread inline skaters. Also deer and other fluffy beasts. Sharing means caring–which is a bit trite but yes, try to care about the community’s experience. Mindful. Sympathetic. Or just don’t be an ********. The Grand Owl hates it when I swear so figure that out.

Weston’s trails are not groomed. We are not Vail, people, nor even that nice Weston Ski Track. This includes the Mass Central Rail Trail, which is also unkempt so to speak.

Burchard Park. Skiers middle, walkers on both sides

The primary rule on winter trails is this: Do not ride, skate-ski, or walk over classic ski tracks. Keep to the opposite side. It is very hard to break a first XC ski track. There is nothing like coming back to your ski track on the way back to the car to find a walker has put huge divots with their clompy boots in the track. Or bicycles–folks, you’re on thin ice with me anyway because of all the huge scars left in the muddy trails. Dear Land’s Sake, I also mean you with your forest-cutting pickup trucks in Ogilvie. Don’t make me visit you. Oh wait, you have axes. Never mind.

In addition, please do not walk your dog on classic ski tracks and as a further Captain Obvious statement–do not leave your dog’s poo anywhere on the trails but most especially in ski tracks. For the circles of dog poo hell, please review this old Weston Owl blog. Your dog’s poo in winter is not something you can ignore. It is brown. Snow is white. Pick it up. The poo, not the snow.

The next rule was blasphemed last year in Jericho and Burchard/College Pond. There are NO motorized vehicles of any kind allowed on any public trail or field, in the summer or the winter or ever (oh, all right, emergency vehicles and the WFTA Trails Manager’s truck are allowed). That includes snowmobiles. No snowmobiles. Pas de snowmobiles. Nicht Snowmobilen. Does this not seem obvious? Yes, and yet… gah.

Captain Obvious signs at Jericho because someone was very very bad

Other advice:

  1. have your smart phone with you and GPS enabled, it can be disorienting out there and you can get lost. Have Weston’s Trails Online ready before heading out. There are new “You are Here” signs in Jericho and Ogilvie and they are awesome.
  2. If you are sinking more than an inch into snow, use snowshoes or lower the tire pressure in your fat bike tire.
  3. Fat bikes yield to snowshoers and skiers, snowshoers yield to skiers. Dogs yield to everyone or they are on a leash.

Two of the best properties for skiing/snowshoeing are College Pond and Jericho from Dickson Ring. Both properties are accessed by parking in the Burchard parking lot which is plowed. Please do not park on the right of ways of roads during snow events–they are used by DPW for making giant piles of snow. DPW does occasionally plow out Dickson Ring and Doublet Hill parking but they are last priority. Cat Rock and Reservoir are great for snow-shoeing but there are too many users to make cross country skiing possible as a general rule. Rail Trail: great XC skiing. Cat Rock ski slope: AWESOME older kid sledding (pretty hairy, really) and Town Green for sledding for the littles.

Find your joy, folks, and get outside!

Glossary: XC skiing=cross-country skiing=nordic skiing.

French’s Field. Katie Puppy. End of season 2021, March.

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